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May 21, 2009

New Tomdispatch


Going for Broke
Six Ways the Af-Pak War Is Expanding

By Tom Engelhardt

Yes, Stanley McChrystal is the general from the dark side (and proud of it). So the recent sacking of Afghan commander General David McKiernan after less than a year in the field and McChrystal's appointment as the man to run the Afghan War seems to signal that the Obama administration is going for broke. It's heading straight into what, in the Vietnam era, was known as "the big muddy."

General McChrystal comes from a world where killing by any means is the norm and a blanket of secrecy provides the necessary protection. For five years he commanded the Pentagon's super-secret Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which, among other things, ran what Seymour Hersh has described as an "executive assassination wing" out of Vice President Cheney's office. (Cheney just returned the favor by giving the newly appointed general a ringing endorsement: "I think you'd be hard put to find anyone better than Stan McChrystal.")

McChrystal gained a certain renown when President Bush outed him as the man responsible for tracking down and eliminating al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The secret force of "manhunters" he commanded had its own secret detention and interrogation center near Baghdad, Camp Nama, where bad things happened regularly, and the unit there, Task Force 6-26, had its own slogan: "If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it." Since some of the task force's men were, in the end, prosecuted, the bleeding evidently wasn't avoided.

The rest.

—Jonathan Schwarz

Posted at May 21, 2009 11:40 AM

"The idea that the U.S. might actually be better off with one 'hand' tied behind its back is now so alien to us as to be beyond serious consideration."

God bless him, Tom Englehardt has his eyes open.

Posted by: Not Exactly at May 21, 2009 01:02 PM

Hot damn in Bagram!! Lan sakes its Stanley! I wonder if WE can just get Ole Death Squad Negroponte over there to help with the political side of the situation. Put the double whammy on them A-rabs and get OSAMA BIN LADEN. Deadeye still wants to help, I'm sure, and I see much opportunity for Mr. Wanted Dead Or Alive now that they are "more free" and gots time out from all that decidin'.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at May 21, 2009 02:35 PM

Our vey own Col. Walter E. Kurtz. Except this time, instead of judging "his methods unsound," the Army has decided to let him lead the way.

"We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow. Village after village. Army after army. And they call me an assassin. What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? They lie. They lie, and we have to be merciful, for those who lie. Those nabobs. I hate them. I do hate them."

"But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that … but you have no right to judge me. It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means."

"..and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us, and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went back there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember … I … I … I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized … like I was shot … like I was shot with a diamond … a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God … the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men … trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love … but they had the strength … the strength … to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, then our troubles here would be over very quickly."

"You have to have men who are moral … and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling … without passion … without judgment … without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us."

"Have you ever considered any real freedoms? Freedom from the opinions of others...even the opinions of yourself?"

"I worry that my son might not understand what I've tried to be."

Yep. Walter Fucking Kurtz. Welcoming us to the Apocalypse. And you thought it was just a movie.

Posted by: Oarwell at May 21, 2009 06:58 PM

The actual slogan is "No blood, no foul", and it was affixed to a paintball target to which the unit's members tied prisoners.

The "If you don't make them bleed..." was the explanation of the meaning of the slogan given to a reporter.

Posted by: Nell at May 21, 2009 07:45 PM

Oarwell, I think you'll like the Douglas book. It might even give you some spiritual immunity to Kurtz. If not, there's always Aeschylus.


Posted by: Not Exactly at May 22, 2009 12:56 AM